Salty’s slam sends Sox surging to 90th victory

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Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a seventh-inning grand slam against Yankees reliever Preston Claiborne to break a 4-4 tie. The blast, which came on an 0-1, 92 MPH fastball, cleared the fence in right field at Fenway Park with plenty of room to spare.

The Yankees, despite massive bullpen issues, had won their last three and entered tonight just one game behind the second Wild Card in the American League. Starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed four first-inning runs to the Red Sox, but the Yankees fought back, scoring once in the second, once in the sixth, and twice in the seventh to tie the game at four apiece.

Kuroda took the mound for the seventh, but was quickly removed after allowing a lead-off single to Shane Victorino. Manager Joe Girardi brought in lefty Cesar Cabral to face David Ortiz with the platoon advantage, but Cabral hit Ortiz to put runners on first and second with no outs. Sox manager John Farrell pinch-hit Jonny Gomes for Mike Carp, prompting Girardi to call on Claiborne. Claiborne walked Gomes to load the bases, then rebounded and struck out Daniel Nava to give himself some light at the end of the tunnel as Saltalamacchia came to the plate. Charged with two of the four runs on the grand slam, this marks the third consecutive appearance in which Claiborne has allowed multiple runs. He allowed three runs on September 5 and 6, also against the Red Sox.

For the Sox, starter John Lackey allowed four runs in six and one-third innings. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara each tossed perfect innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively, to close out the 8-4 victory. They improve to 90-59, becoming the first team this season to reach the 90 plateau. They temporarily extend their first-place lead in the AL East to nine games over the Rays. The Yankees drop to 79-69, 1.5 games behind the Rays for the second AL Wild Card, pending the result of their game against the Twins.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.